Cevat Giray Aksoy, Barry Eichengreen, Orkun Saka, 16 November 2020

Last week brought welcome news about the apparent effectiveness of a potential Covid-19 vaccine. While the challenges of manufacturing and distributing the vaccine lie ahead, this column argues that the most difficult challenge may actually be getting people to take it. A September survey of more than 10,000 Americans showed that only a slim majority of adult respondents would definitely or probably get a vaccine to prevent Covid-19, were it available today. A 2018 study shows that vaccine scepticism is even greater in a number of other countries. Hope lies in the possibility of a more consistent and effective public policy response, in which governments’ non-pharmaceutical interventions produce positive results, in turn fostering confidence in the safety and efficacy of any vaccine they endorse and distribute. 

Miquel Oliu-Barton, Bary Pradelski, 02 October 2020

With coronavirus vaccines potentially on the horizon, attention is now turning to how to distribute them once they are available. This column makes the case for vaccination deployment being dependent on the prevalence of the virus in a zone (i.e. a predefined geographical area). Red zones should focus on vaccinating people at risk and health workers to reduce fatalities and keep hospitals operational. Green zones, where community transmission is low, should additionally focus on vaccinating inter-zone travellers and highly central individuals to reduce the risk of re-importation and keep virus spread near zero. 

Philippe Aghion, Sofia Amaral-Garcia, Mathias Dewatripont, Michel Goldman, 01 September 2020

While EU countries have been able to rely on a more resilient social model and a science-based approach in managing the Covid crisis more successfully so far than the US, Europe has fallen short in matching the US effort to incentivise Covid vaccine innovation. This is due to a lower level of financial investment and also an inability to ensure coordination across different (national and European) funding schemes. This column calls for the creation of a European equivalent to the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to tackle these problems, thereby strengthening European industries' leadership in vaccine research and innovation.

Linda Thunström, 05 August 2020

The scientific community has come together in an unprecedented effort to find a COVID-19 vaccine. However, the success of any vaccine depends on the share of the population that gets vaccinated, and in a middle-of-the-road scenario with central estimates of model parameters, a vaccine will benefit public health by saving many lives but nevertheless may fail to achieve herd immunity. Linda Thunström (University of Wyoming) talks to Tim Phillips about a recent Covid Economics paper reporting on a survey of American attitudes towards vaccination. The results of the survey suggest that 20% of the American population may refuse a COVID-19 vaccine.

Linda Thunström's Paper can be found in Issue 35 of CEPR's Covid Economics Papers

Richard Bluhm, Maxim Pinkovskiy, 06 June 2020

The prospect that BCG – a vaccine used primarily against tuberculosis – might offer protection from COVID-19 has become an understandably popular hypothesis. This column finds that hope misplaced. The authors exploit a natural experiment, overlaying the large difference in BCG vaccination rates with the large differences in COVID-19 infection rates between the former East and West Germany. They find that the differences are attributable not to BCG, but to the West’s copious commuter flow patterns and the fact that the epidemic arrived there first.

Pierre-Yves Geoffard, 04 June 2020

The health costs of the Covid-19 pandemic are considerable, and the economic and social costs of lockdown policies are even larger. This column calls for an innovative mechanism to foster the development of a vaccine against Covid-19. Governments would commit now to buy back any patent obtained by a private firm which would discover an effective vaccine, at a price of €60 billion, and would grant the right to produce the vaccine to any firm able to do so. This mechanism would provide strong incentives to innovate, while protecting firms from the political risk of expropriation.

Gaétan de Rassenfosse, Dominique Foray, George Abi Younes, Charles Ayoubi, Omar Ballester, Gabriele Cristelli, Patrick Gaulé, Gabriele Pellegrino, Matthias van den Heuvel, Elizabeth Webster, Ling Zhou, 06 May 2020

The COVID-19 crisis reflects a failure of the global health system. It also reflects well-known failures of the global science, technology, and innovation ecosystem, including systematic underinvestment in vaccine research. At the same time, the crisis reveals the extraordinary resilience of this ecosystem. This column argues that innovation is the only way out of the pandemic, and that formidable creative approaches and entrepreneurial forces are at play. Research in the economics of innovation helps in understanding some root causes of the present situation and sheds light on possible policy responses. 

Michael Kremer, Christopher Snyder, Fanele Mashwama, 10 May 2019

Consumers pay more for many pharmaceuticals in the US than in most other countries. This column investigates the welfare implications of such price discrimination using demand curves for HIV pharmaceuticals. A ban on price discrimination exacerbates the potentially large deadweight loss in the market for either a drug or a vaccine. However, this loss is ameliorated by a small government subsidy.

Michael Kremer, Christopher Snyder, Natalia Drozdoff, 29 January 2016

Many observers believe that pharmaceutical firms prefer to invest in drugs to treat diseases rather than vaccines. This column presents an economic rationale for why such a pattern may emerge for diseases like HIV/AIDS. The population risk of such diseases resembles a Zipf distribution, which makes the shape of the demand curve for a drug more conducive to revenue extraction than for a vaccine. Based on revenue calibrations using US data on HIV risk, the revenue from a drug is about four times greater.

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